The Rite of Circumcision

Even though St. Paul seized with the full force of himself the majesty of Jesus and carried Christianity forward with majesty while also willingly drinking of the cup that Jesus drank, he also carried error along with him into enlargement.  He…

wrestled mightily with the Fruedian god, sexual libido, as is evidenced in these words:  the ‘immoral man sins against his body… You are not your own, you were bought for a price; then glorify God with your body… It is indeed an excellent thing for a man to have no intercourse with a woman; but there is so much immorality, that every man had better have a wife of his own and every woman a husband of her own…   –and then he transfers the dread of castration from the physical to the psychological level, saying that through Christ a man is circumcised…

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Harold then takes the circumcision theme and expounds:

In the Christian world, the circumcision rite of Judaism continues, veiled as a medical practice, so that the male’s castration-fear phobia is not necessarily born of race memory… Jesus says, “Moses gave you the rite of circumcision – not that it came from Moses, it came from your ancestors,” which is to say, from primeval times, and then He adds, “Well, if a man gets circumcised upon the sabbath, to avoid breaking the law of Moses, are you enraged at me for curing and not cutting, the entire body of a man upon the sabbath?” –or as the King James version puts it, making “a man every whit whole…?”  Jesus thus spurned circumcision and implied that from a psychological point of view it cuts the entire body of the male.

Although I’m not so sure Jesus completely spurns circumcision here (He was circumcised Himself, although he does contrast it with his healing), I do think there is something to the thought that it has an effect on the entirety of the male psychological makeup.  In his masterful “Cipher of Genesis,” Carlo Suares gives us his understanding of the circumcision rite.  I quote him at length:

Circumcision at 8 days is generally considered a hygienic measure, though actually something far more important is involved: the transformation of the human body.  The rationale is the need to sever manhood (as typified by Adam) from the purely animal heritage through a process of sublimation and transformation.

This shock is deeply felt by the individual.  Undergone 8 days after birth, as it is among the Jews, its effects are so decisive within the structure of the unconscious and the vital centres (chakras)* that it is justifiable to find in circumcision a factor of the exceptional history of the Jews.  We may well suppose that those who instituted this practice did so with a specific goal in view.  Circumcision intensifies the development of the sensorial apparatus through an effective co-ordination of sensory activity; it awakens the intellectual faculties; the sexual energy is utilized by the body prior to the awakening of sex.

The result is a freer self which transforms and assimilates the elements of its environment according to the needs of its own individual development.  At the same time this self is carried along by the inner movement which engenders that faculty of assimilation.  The individual is in perfect harmony with the rapid changes of the world.

These remarks may give insight into the manner in which the vital and contradictory movement set up in the human process by the circumcision is considered, in mythical terms, as a “pact” with Elohim (which is this process).  This pact causes the movement of the universe to penetrate into the very flesh of the body, and into the mind as well.  In fact, it has “conquered the flesh” by obliging to transmute, to transfigure, itself.

This is a theme already familiar to us; the transmutation of what is fixed and static (in this case, the flesh, the blood, the “dam” of Adam), so that it can eventually allow the life of Aleph (the unthinkable life-death, abstract principle of all that is and all that is not) to be resuscitated.

* my parenthesis

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Thought provoking indeed.  Until next time, peace…

You Will be Hated by All…

Sigmund Freud has an interesting theory on the reason for anti-Semitism.  Preston Harold mentions that Freud pointed out that Christianity became a cultural regression, a step away from strict monotheism.  In Christianity’s formulation of God as Trinity (1 God in three persons), and in it’s overtaking of many pagan sacred sites and traditions, including substituting devotion to Mary for the goddess traditions, Christianity was able to make great progress in expanding and mark a distinct progress in the history of religion.  Over the centuries, this has worked itself out in a particularly interesting way.  Harold explains…

Freud recognizes the jealousy the Jews evoked in maintaining that they were the first-born, chosen people of God, and takes into account the rite of circumcision that reminds humanity of the dreaded castration idea, but points out there is a more recent motive for anti-Semitism:

“We must not forget that all the peoples who now excel in the practice of anti-Semitism became Christians only in relatively recent Imagetimes….under the thin veneer of Christianity they have remained what their ancestors were, barbarically polytheistic.  They have not yet overcome their grudge against the new religion which was forced on them, and they have projected it onto the source….The facts that the Gospels tell a story which is enacted among Jews, and in truth treats only of Jews, has facilitated such a projection.  The hatred for Judaism is at bottom hatred for Christianity….”

Freud appears to have put his finger on the neurosis of the Western world: it stems from an ambivalent acceptance of, if not outright hatred for, Pauline doctrine.

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So according to Freud, anti-Semitism comes by way of Christianity (with it’s Jewish heart and soul) via Paul’s doctrine and the usurpation of local culture and traditions by the Roman empire via the Roman Catholic Church.  In other words, an anti-Semite would contend (if they were aware of their unconscious process [chuckle]), “You Christians forced your religion upon me, you Christians worship Jesus, Jesus was a Jew, so I don’t like anyone Jewish!”  It’s an interesting theory, but not one that totally convinces me.  It does make sense from a Freudian perspective, though.

So what do we do with the reality of anti-Semitism, not to mention the reality of all types of prejudice?  As always, Harold leads us to Jesus:

As one appraises Freud’s thesis and his diagnosis that anti-Semitism is at bottom hatred for Christianity, he must consider that there is a law of history which says: Imageerror must grow until it reaches its outermost limits.  Jesus revealed His understanding of this law by saying that the good seed and tares must grow together unto the harvest, and by speaking of the enlargement of conflict that must precede comprehension of the Christ in man (Matt 13:30, 24:6-7).  He knew that before the Judaic Messianic mold and any like unto it could be obliterated all men would come to hate the Jew and to hate Him, His name, Son of man, and all it implies:

You will be hated by all on account of my name…. (Luke 21:17)

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Until next time, peace…

Along Comes Paul

For Paul’s gospel to be effective, he had to tap into man’s primeval and archaic heritage.  Freud says that Paul’s success

“was certainly mainly due to the fact that through the idea of salvation he laid the ghost of Imagethe feeling of guilt.  It was also due to his giving up the idea of the chosen people and its visible sign – circumcision.  That is how the new religion could become all embracing, universal.”  Thus, he concludes that Paul effected a “continuation of primeval history,” and that both Christianity and Judaism stem from “the religion of the primeval father, and the hope of reward, distinction, and finally world sovereignty is bound up with it.

Freud also says that Paul shifted the focus from the father to the son, seizing upon the feeling of guilt for father murder and tracing it to its primeval source:

This he (Paul) called original sin; it was a crime against God that could be expiated only through death… A son of God, innocent himself, had sacrificed himself, and had thereby taken over the guilt of the world… The Mosaic religion had been a Father religion; Christianity became a Son religion.  The old God, the Father, took second place; Christ, the Son, stood in his stead, just as in those dark times every son had longed to do.  Paul, by developing the Jewish religion further, became its destroyer.

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Of course it was St. Augustine, not Paul, who developed the idea of “original sin.”  But Freud’s insights remain relevant.  We will explore his interesting insights into the reason for anti-Semitism in our next post.  Until then, peace…

Man’s Archaic Heritage

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We are now on to Chapter 3, titled “Man’s Archaic Heritage.”  Beginning with this chapter and continuing through chapter 5, Preston Harold takes us back to the ‘”beginning” in exploring the origins of humanity, how we come to be where we are today, and the role of Jesus’ message as applied to our genesis, for He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.

ImageIn 1859 it was Charles Darwin who lead much of mankind to recognize it’s “origin” in the animal kingdom and thereby strike a major challenge and blow to orthodox Christian theology.  Twenty five years later Sigmund Freud began to publish his works, which also turned humanity to view it’s savage past:

…there probably exists in the mental life of the individual  not only what he has experienced himself, but also what he brought with him at birth, fragments of a phylogenetic origin, an archaic heritage…though different in extent and character [it] corresponds to the instincts of animals.

This theory also dealt a major blow to Christianity for Freud expounded on it to say that all religions are delusions containing a piece of forgotten, but historical, truth and thus imbued with psychotic symptoms.  Most religious origins revolve around themes of murder, patricide, infanticide, castration and cannibalism.  This takes us into the realm of myth and the hero’s journey which we briefly looked at earlier here.  In his “Moses and Monotheism,” Freud reconstructs the average myth:

The hero is the son of parents of the highest station, most often the son of a king.  His conception is impeded by difficulties… During his mother’s pregnancy or earlier an oracle or a dream warns the father of the child’s birth as containing grave danger for his safety.  In Imageconsequence the father (or a person representing him) gives orders for the new-born babe to be killed or exposed to extreme danger; in most cases the babe is placed in a casket and delivered to the waves.  The child is then saved by animals or poor people, such as shepherds, and suckled by a female animal or woman of humble birth.  When full grown he rediscovers his noble parents after many strange adventures, wreaks vengeance on his father, and, recognized by his people, attains fame and greatness.

The actual historical background for this mythic structure is where the “psychotic symptoms” come into play:

The story is told in a very condensed way, as if what in reality took centuries to achieve, and during that long time was repeated innumerably, had happened only once.  The strong male was the master and father of the whole horde, unlimited in his power, which he used brutally.  All females were his property… The fate of the sons was a hard one; if they excited the father’s jealousy they were killed or castrated or driven out….the brothers who had been driven out and lived together in community clubbed together, overcame the father, and – according to the custom of those times – all partook of his body.  This cannibalism need not shock us, it survived into far later times.  The essential point is, however, that we attribute to those primeval people the same feelings and emotions that we have elucidated in the primitives of our own times, our children, by psycho-analytic research….they not merely hated and feared their father, but also honored him as an example to follow; in fact, each son wanted to place himself in his father’s position.  The cannibalistic act thus becomes comprehensible as an attempt to assure one’s identification with the father by incorporating a part of him.

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“My father will come home and see what I did… He’ll have to deal with me. I’m just tired of being afraid.”

If this is indeed how the religions of man began, it certainly seems to paint a bleak picture.  There is no revelation from any type of God on high, no striving to become a better human being, no selfless giving involved.  Where is the hope, the faith, the love?  There is only striving for dominance and power.  To be at the top of the food chain is the ultimate goal.  How can this goal be transformed into something better for all of humanity?  This is what we will continue to explore, and in our next post will we begin to look at the role the Apostle Paul plays in his interpretation of the message of Jesus to affect this transformation.  Until then, peace…